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Literature reviews: Tips on how to write a literature review   Tags: literature_review, review_of_literature  

Last Updated: Dec 11, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

What is a Literature Review? Print Page

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A librarian can help you:

  • develop your research question.
  • develop a search strategy.
  • identify resources to search.
  • find and evaluate Internet sites.
  • cite your sources using APA, MLA, or Turabian style.

Key questions?

What is it?

How do I get started?

How does it differ from a research paper?

Why do I write one?

Does it follow a certain format style?

If I get stuck, how do I find help?

This Libguide will help you with the above questions.  If it does not directly provide an answer, it will direct you to a source which will guide you.


Books at Mabee Library

Books can provide concise expert help with your Literature Review.  Click on the links below to find books located in Mabee Library.

Preparing Literature Reviews -- Call number: WU Mabee Stacks  -  Q180.55.E9 P36 2008

Writing Literature Reviews : A Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences -- Call number: WU Mabee Stacks  -  H61.8 .G3 2006

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The literature review is a summary of previous research on a topic.  The literature review surveys scholarly articles, books, and other sources relevant to a particular area of research or interest.  Within the review the author provides a description, summary and critical evaluation of each source, i.e. the strengths and weaknesses. The literature review may also identify gaps or controversies in the literature and topics needing further research.

The format of the literature review may vary from discipline to discipline, and from assignment to assignment, but the purpose is standard:  critical analysis of a body of knowledge through summation and comparison.

The literature review

  • provides the historical background for your research;
  • describes issues, debates, theories, concepts and related research in the field; and
  • shows how your research will extend these or address a gap.

What is the difference?

How does a literature review differ from a research paper?

When you write a research paper, you select sources which support your own argument. In a research paper, the argument is the main focus.

When you write a literature review, you summarize the arguments and ideas of others. In a literature review, the sources are the main focus. You do not have to prove that you have read everything. Cite only the most important and the most relevant sources. The literature review should detail what was not addressed in previous studies and should answer the question of why you are undertaking your study .

  • Sample literature review
    This literature review on Critical Thinking was written by Gwendolyn Reece, a Library faculty member at American University.

The literature review

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